A very talented musician, intelligent and wise friend (Errol) said to me, over breakfast or dinner in France, “you have a strong mind and it is your mind that is going to get you through this challenge.” He pointed out that I have a rational mind and that while I think things through and like things “ordered”, sometimes I might need to just allow nature to take its course and not be disappointed when I cannot find an explanation for why things like pain persist. In a nutshell, he was speaking about mind over matter and the power of positive thought. This conversation came about while discussing the severe pain I have been experiencing of late, mainly lower back and kidney pain on the left side of my body. I was saying that while I can continue to fill myself with various painkillers of different strengths, I wanted to know what is causing this pain in order to treat the cause, not the symptoms. Errol’s wife Sue (ex-prima ballerina, excellent cook, baker and loving friend), a pharmacist friend Pam (brilliant song-writer and party-animal of note), and a doctor friend Robert (gentle, caring and very good at logical diagnoses), all worked together during my week in France to ease my discomfort and to help eliminate the pain that sometimes had me turning in circles, mainly in the middle of the night.
Back in England, another close friend asked me why I don’t call someone or wake someone up when I am in such pain and I explained that firstly, as there is nothing that anyone can do to help stop the pain it is simply distressing for this person to have to observe someone you care about writhing in agony and feeling absolutely helpless, and secondly, I do not want anyone to see me in such pain because I rotate my body and move about in such undignified positions in a desperate attempt to gain a modicum of comfort. My GP, pharmacist and advice from friends, have all helped me to manage my pain more effectively and I am pleased to note that I now tend to wake up around 5am and not 3am in pain. I have also decided to seek alternative non-drug pain control in order to avoid feeling like a total zombie all day long. Afternoon naps are taking the form of a coma which leaves me feeling much worse than if I hadn’t had the nap in the first place. Mild exercise is definitely on the cards and lots of vitamins and energy-boosting foods too. By focusing my mind on pain relief, I will pull through this part of my challenge.
Anyway, this blog is not meant to be about pain or trials and tribulations. It is about encounters. As those of you who read my last blog will know that I was in the south of France, Villeneuve-Loubet to be exact. Installed in the most charming loft which came with air-conditioning, I spent a lovely week resting, reading, eating amazing food, chatting to friends, and meeting the local villageois. Sue knows everyone in the village and I met most of her friends. There was Aida from Senegal who gave me a CD of songs written by her son and who said to Sue: “il est très beau” (yes, she had been to specsavers!), her grandson Tony who drew me a lovely picture, Sara, a young Arab girl, and many other villageois who owned businesses from restaurants to dog parlours. Unfortunately, with my husky voice and lack of energy, I was not able to talk the hind leg off a donkey as I usually do.
I was able to contact Robert, a doctor friend of mine thanks to Sue’s investigative skills and we had a lovely reunion in the village followed by a helpful visit to the local pharmacy for medicines. I also spent a day and night with Pam who introduced me to a lovely extended family, part Moroccan, to celebrate a birthday and watch the cup final. Turned out that their son Romain was at the Nice Conservatoire where I was once a student. And then, the cherry on the cake: Alistair Whitehair. I taught Ali French (International Baccalaureate) for 2 years at Whitgift school, pushed him hard in terms of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation and he has been working in Marseilles for about a month now. Ali took the time to travel down to see me and we spent the day in Nice and the evening in Villeneuve-Loubet with Sue and Errol. Ali was the captain of my day House and as he was then, he is still someone of the highest quality and integrity. His French is excellent and it was indeed a pleasure conversing almost entirely in French with him for the whole day. All in all, my trip to Villeneuve-Loubet was awesome despite hearing some devastating news from one of my couchsurfers - Emilien - who had to return to Paris to face a family crisis. I am pleased to say that he is coping much better with this tragic event and will be returning to the couchsurfing fold in a couple of weeks’ time. Another set of bad news included the death of Angie Milligan, a dear and most caring and loving lady with a charming Irish accent, who sadly died of lung cancer. That really upset me as I was very close to the whole family. Angie always used to say “don’t put it down, put it away”. She made lovely chocolate cakes and quiches and full English breakfasts with black pudding, after Sunday mass.
Returning home was lovely. I was kidnapped within minutes of getting home by Alex who cooked me a lovely hot curry which we shared with the ever gorgeous Sarah. Back at 5A, I sat with my couchsurfers (one of whom doesn’t really appreciate that I use that that term affectionately but he’s decided that “squatter” is worse), catching up on their news. The next morning I had my pre-op assessment which involved answering a load of boring questions as well as a physical examination. For those of you who don’t know, the op will be done on the 23rd of July and I might have to stay overnight in hospital depending on my reaction to the anaesthetic. While I am hoping that the operation will be a success and give me all or most of my voice back, I am not particularly looking forward to it. It will be conducted under full anaesthetic, something that concerns me, my lungs being in their current state of disrepair. However, my friend John is an anaesthetist and is confident that all will go well.
Morse is whistling away from the living room, demanding his apple and other forms of breakfast snacks so I had best get out of bed and deal with his requests. He has sent John and Richard away to Portugal so that he and I can party the week away. Perhaps we’ll have some vodka shots to wash the apple down followed by a wild and splashing swim in his water bowl. I was impressed at how many CD covers he had managed to chew his way through yesterday...he clearly does not approve of John and Richard’s choice of music.
Until next time, start strengthening your mind. Focus on something you think you cannot do, and work towards doing it. Don’t let trivial issues get you down, use your mind and the power of positive thought to tackle the bigger issues. Love yourself and don’t wait for others to love you first. Lastly, if there is someone you really care about, spend the day thinking about them, willing them to call you. If they don’t, then just call them.
Love in abundance